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Why Fair Trade USA Has Parted Ways With Fairtrade International

Fair Trade Cafe sign

As of the beginning of this year, Fair Trade USA is no longer a part of Fairtrade International (FLO), parting ways for their next endeavors. President and CEO Paul Rice justifies this move by claiming these changes will allow the organization to double its impact in as little as three years.

The most notable and significant change is in regard to coffee, where Fair Trade certification was limited to farmers cooperatives. “Beginning in coffee, we are adapting Fair Trade standards for both workers on large farms and independent small holders,” Rice said in a statement on Triplepundit. “Through this more inclusive model, Fair Trade USA can reach over 4 million farm workers who are currently excluded from the system.”

Companies like Starbucks have pushed for this rule to be abolished for some time, allowing them to expand their certification while working with their current suppliers. Fairtrade International (FLO) has resisted this change for years, claiming there are more than enough coffee farmers who fall under the current standards that are in need of fair trade standards.

Now that Fair Trade USA is out of the grasp of international hands, they are eager to take steps to expand fair trade certification and sales while providing “farmers with tools, training and resources to thrive as international businesspeople.” The changes will be implemented with 10-20 pilot programs over the next 2 years.

Fair Trade USA also plans to develop “innovative new partnerships with global financial institutions, NGOs, leading social entrepreneurs and in-country service providers.” These partnerships will increase market opportunities, improve quality and productivity, and expand available training programs for cooperatives.

Aside from new partnerships and broadening cooperatives, Fair Trade USA also hopes to increase awareness with consumers in the United States. In Europe, well over 80% of consumers are aware of the benefits of Fair Trade. However, in the U.S., only about 34% of consumers are aware of it. Their goal is to spread awareness to consumers that every purchase, even one as little as a cup of coffee, can improve the world and turn our country into a more responsible economy.

As Paul Rice notes, “as 2 billion people still live on less than $2 USD a day, there is much more to be done.” Do you think this move will benefit fair trade in the long run, or does it sound risky and damaging?

Image CC licensed by Nick Bastian

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like selling out to the corporates.  It will probably make them a LOT of money.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on how the money is used.

    My concern with this is the fragmentation of the ‘Fair Trade’ brand. Now, consumers will have to take extra care to choose the varient of ‘Fair Trade that meets their ethical standards, and even for that 80% of Euro consumers, the mantra of ‘Buy Fair Trade’ is no longer going to be acceptable.